Sunday, June 13, 2021

Before the Frost (2002)

Definitely some new wrinkles to the Kurt Wallander story in this later Henning Mankell novel—most notably that it features Wallander's daughter Linda, who has become a police officer after spending her 20s figuring things out. In fact, it's more her novel than Kurt's, intended as the first of a trilogy. It was never finished because Mankell was too distraught after the actress playing her in a TV production committed suicide. This reminds me I should check in with some of the Wallander TV and movie versions one of these times. Kenneth Branagh plays him in one. As always, Mankell's plotting is solid, but Before the Frost still feels a little underbaked somehow. Mankell scheduled the climax of the action here for September 8, 2001—yeah, he generally has his stories all charted out on timelines. Then he appeared to feel the need to acknowledge 9/11. His bad people this time around are radicalized Christians—including a survivor of Jonestown, in an audacious stroke typical of Mankell. This guy is the mastermind, utilizing all the lessons he learned from Jim Jones. Using radicalized Christians as a plot point might have felt awkward for Mankell in the immediate aftermath of a new level of radicalized Muslim strikes. But I'm glad he stayed the course. Radicalized Christians are at least as much trouble. Part of the feeling of lack of development in this one is likely due to the planned trilogy never being finished. These events all take place just before Linda starts her police career, and there's also a new love interest for her (reportedly from another non-Wallander novel by the busy Mankell). Before the Frost more seems to be exploring the relationship between Kurt and Linda, parent and grown child, complicated further because Linda is an only child of divorced parents. The fights between Kurt and Linda are abrupt and absurdly brutal. Also, at least one character, Ann-Britt Hoglund, is suddenly almost unrecognizable. She's remarkably cold to Linda. What happened here? I thought Hoglund was one of the most interesting side characters in the Kurt Wallander series. Other detectives seem slightly different too, but it's more in line with Linda's point of view. Another weak element is that one of Linda's closest childhood friends is a pathological liar and this comes as news to Linda. You'd think she'd have noticed by now. Interesting curiosity in the Wallander series anyway.

In case the library is closed due to pandemic.

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